Football: Grays Ath stay top of the table

Isthmian Division North

Coggeshall Town 1 v 1 Grays Athletic

BLUES leading for most of the game saw Coggeshall snatch a draw courtesy of a Sam Bantick penalty in what was a classic game of two halves. Danny Sambridge succumbed to a back injury early on to be replaced by 16 year old Sam Griek who acquitted himself well.

A thunderbolt from David Knight gave Blues a deserved half time lead, a half in which they monopolised play for long periods and but for a more clinical approach in front of goal could have gone in more than one goal to the good. It was a different scenario however after the break, the Seedmen playing with four up front enjoyed the lions share of possession but without really testing Griek, only beaten by Bantick’s spot kick. The point keeps Blues on top of the table but they will see it as two points lost.

This season Blues play has been characterised by quick starts and that was the order of the day when they pressed from the first whistle, Anointed Chukwu and Knight occupied Coggeshall defenders with clever interplay well served by a busy midfield. The early pressure was forcing the hosts into launching long balls easily dealt with by Blues back line.

Sambridge unable to continue made way for Griek after 17 minutes, the youngster looked composed seamlessly entering the fray. Blues continued to probe for an opener, frustratingly, although Chukwu held the ball up well he failed to capitalise delaying a shot on goal.

The game became a more even contest with Coggeshall now seeing more of the ball with their first real opportunity falling to Tyler Christian-Law who drove wide of the goal.

Blues care of the ball at times was less than secure in part the reason the hosts were seeing more of the ball but just when it was needed they struck to put themselves in front in the 38th minute. Chukwu receiving the ball wide on the flank did well to spot Knight unmarked on the edge of the area, squaring the ball the Blues striker struck it with real venom past Mathew Cafer’s despairing dive into the bottom corner.

The one goal advantage was just reward for Blues earlier efforts and had they not overplayed in the danger area they could have had more than the one goal lead. The Seedmen to their credit rallied , a long throw caused confusion in the Blues rearguard who were grateful to see Griek come to the rescue turning the ball over.

HT 0-1

In stark contrast to their energetic start to the first period Blues made a sluggish start to the second and could have been pegged back almost immediately when Sam Bantick wriggled clear but missed the target when his shot flew over.

Eventually Blues settled but found a more determined Coggeshall squeezing play, closing down space and getting the upper hand territorially, a rapid break saw Thomas Northwood lob over.

Dropping deeper Blues were forced to hit long balls to their frontrunners bypassing the midfield, it allowed the hosts to apply further pressure but despite this Geoffrey Okonkwo and Jack McQueen stubbornly repelled the repeated raids – Okonkwo saving the day on one occasion with a goal line clearance. For all the pressure though Griek was rarely tested, the same could be said of Chafer in the home goal with the game becoming attritional in the middle of the park.

With just five minutes remaining on the clock it looked like Blues would hold on and claim the three points, but a clumsy challenge in the box from Ryan Sammons left the official no option but to award a spot kick duly despatched by Bantick.

The game had been competitive and played in the right spirit but was marred after the final whistle when Jermain Francis was red carded for an unproved punch on McQueen.

A draw would have been seen as two points lost by Blues and a point gained by the hosts but on balance was probably a fair reflection of the 90 minutes. Blues were not at their best apart from the opening twenty minutes but nevertheless they competed well to maintain top spot in the table.

Sambridge (Griek 18),Sammons , Joynes, Moncur (Watts 90), Okonkwo, McQueen, Paxman, Hahn, Chukwu, Knight, Gould (54)

Subs not used: Henry, Ogunbiade

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